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15 Things to Know About Your Breath

Today I want you to consider upgrading your breathing to improve your health. I am not talking about doing a 5-minute breathing exercise once a day. Yes, that is a good thing and will help, but I am talking about actually breathing better throughout the day.

The #1 thing you can do to improve your health is reduce stress. How do you do that when there are so many things needing our attention in our lives? You change the way you breathe.

When you inhale you welcome in oxygen and deliver its energy to every cell in your body. There is a connection between your lungs and your cellular health.

When you are relaxed you breathe in about 15 times a minute, in deep relaxation that slows and deepens. When you are nervous or when you are exercising that number obviously increases and gets shallow. That amounts to about 23,000 breaths a day.  Buddhist view each in-breath as new life and each out-breath as a little death. They consider your deepest attitudes toward life and death reflected in your breath.

Every emotional state you experience has a corresponding pattern of breathing associated with it. If you change your breath you can change your emotional state.

This week I would like you to bring in some consciousness to that otherwise elemental practice of breathing. It is extremely difficult to directly influence the activity of heart, kidney, stomach, intestines, and other organs which are involved in the experiencing of emotions. Through breathing, we can influence the activity of these internal organs. We can easily influence and change our breathing with some awareness.

Research reported on by Georgetown University Professor Candace Pert suggests that deep breathing is an entry point to access an information network responsible for coordinating and governing the nervous, endocrine and immune systems, as well as the psychology of the human body. According to Dr. Pert, a wealth of data supports that the changes in the rate or depth of breathing can trigger the release of emotion-carrying peptides from the brain stem. Through the process of deep breathing techniques, this peptide-respiratory link can release peptides quickly throughout the cerebral spinal fluid, to release old emotions and restore balance.

15 Things to Know About Your Breathing

  1. Your breath is the first thing to respond in your body: Your breath will respond and adjust according to what you are thinking, feeling, observing, hearing, tasting, touching, sensing or experiencing at the time. It is intimately connected to your physical, emotional and spiritual state.
  2. Check the depth of your inhale: Does your normal inhale only reach the middle or upper area of your chest?  Or is your normal inhale even shorter stopping around your shoulder, neck and throat area?  This is a great place to start developing a greater understanding of your breath by focusing on the depth of your inhale.  A full inhale should fill your lungs and expand your abdomen.  Place your hands on either side of your lower ribs … feel them expand with each inhale.  Then place your hands on your belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath.
  3. Let it go and extend your exhale: An extended exhale in times of stress pushes any drama, confusion and upset away from you.  Short, quick, shallow breathes will bring any stress and drama closer to you.  By slowing and deepening your breath, you create a healthy distance between you and whatever is going on around you.  A deep releasing exhale will support you letting it go.
  4. Proper breathing will increase the elimination of waste in all the organs: Under activity of the lungs affects the bowel, kidneys, skin, lymph, hearth, autonomic nerves and every other organ or tissue in the body by increasing the level of acidity in our body.  Shallow breathing lowers metabolism.  When the efficiency of our lungs is reduced due to poor breathing less oxygen is available to our cells, it slows down the flow of blood which carries wastes from the kidneys and lungs. Our lymphatic system which fights off viral and bacterial invaders is weakened along with a slower digestive process.  In addition, heavily oxygenated blood creates a type of sterile environment within the body, making it difficult for bacteria and viruses to grow.
  5. Stressed out breathing will influence your day: Jerky, shallow, fast, constricted or tight breathing reflects that you live your days in a constant stressed out -state.  This type of breathing will cause you to overreact to what is happening around you and waste your precious energy unnecessarily.  Changing your breathing habits will provide a different flow to your day.
  6. Quality breathing can release fear, anger, and sadness: Your breath will become disturbed when experiencing stressful emotions.  To prevent these unwanted emotions from being pushed down and trapped in your body, simply breathe into your organs.  When I begin to feel upset, I notice where I am feeling this in my body and breath into that organ.  Once I started doing this I experienced enormous benefits immediately.  Breathe into your lungs to remove sadness and grief.  Breathe into your kidneys to dissolve fear.  Breathe into your liver to dissolve anger.  Breathe into your heart to open yourself up to more loving experiences. Breathe in gently and deeply (never forced) to invite healthy energy into your organs, now consciously feel the stressful emotion flow out of your body with each exhale.
  7. Use your nose for breathing, your mouth for eating:   There are some researchers who believe that mouth breathing causes or exacerbates asthma, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many other medical problems. One important reason which many experts share is that nose breathing corrects the balance of oxygen and dioxide in our blood. Breathing in fully through your nose instantly restores the parasympathetic nervous system and helps the body metabolize stress hormones. What you do during waking hours carries over into sleep. Any opportunity for nose breathing will increase the chances of nose breathing during sleep, allowing you to have better sleep.
  8. Your breath activates your nervous system: When the sympathetic nervous system is activated you are in “fight or flight” mode and constantly releasing stress into your body.  On the other hand, the parasympathetic nervous system is the “rest and digest” mode of life.  It helps slow your body down which in turn allows restoration and rejuvenation. The key to activating your parasympathetic nervous system is to place your full attention on your breath.  Close your eyes and allow your breath to slow down relax and become gentle. Let your whole body absorb your now gentle breath.
  9. Experience the pause after your exhale: Take time to be with your breath.  Don’t force anything or rush straight into your next breath.  Notice the very natural stillness and slight pause after each exhale. Infuse gentleness into your breathing.  Be with your breath for a moment, with its nourishing flow.   Don’t push your next breath into the future, particularly if you haven’t even got there yourself.  Become present, live in the now and experience the pause after your next exhale.  There is a pocket of peace to be found in that pause.
  10. Your body can’t relax if your mind and breath are racing: Your thoughts are directly linked to the quality of your breathing.  Busy, overactive thinking often means short, shallow and quick breaths.  By focusing on calming your mind you will automatically be calming your breath and in turn relaxing your body.  Meditation is an awesome way to calm your mind.
  11. A conscious exhale removes toxins from your body: Spending longer on your exhale through your nose will remove old, stuck or stagnant carbon dioxide from the very bottom of your lungs, along with toxic bi-products the body has produced.  In addition, a deep sign (strong exhale) is often a release of worries and heavy thoughts. A good exhale can help you let it go emotionally and physically.
  12. Pulling your stomach in reduces your oxygen intake: One of the main benefits of breathing, of course, is to invite loads of oxygen into your body.  Restricting your oxygen intake compromises the health of your body.  To invite oxygen deep into your abdomen, diaphragm area keep your belly soft, relaxed and open.  Touch and massage it frequently as your belly is the very center of your breath.  Many ancient traditions such as Taoism believe we can accumulate and store energy in our belly area.   It is often known as our seat of power.
  13. Breathing is not just for your lungs it’s for your whole body: You can consciously choose to direct the flow of your breath into absolutely any part of your body, for whatever purpose.  Improve energy flow, dissolve tension, release a build-up of pressure in your head area, ground you, energize you, de-stress you or to simply send smiles to all your organs. To ground myself I often imagine my breath flowing down into my legs, feet, toes and then into the ground. It helps me come back into my body.
  14. Shallow breathing causes memory loss: The Taoists believe that loss of oxygen through shallow breathing ie. your inhale only goes as deep as your throat or top of your lungs, is the primary cause of memory loss in the elderly. Bad memory can be caused by poor oxygenation. You increase your blood oxygen with deep breathing. Bad memory can also be the result of holding tension. When you learn to breathe slowly and deeply, you learn to relax.
  15. Breathing through your nose reduces your chance of getting a cold: Lessening of the common cold is another good reason for nose breathing. The mucous (white blood cells that kill germs) membrane lining the nose extends all the way from the inner linings of the nostrils down the trachea to the bronchi then directly enters the lungs. Germs get caught and die in the mucus.

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